Virat knocks twice and enters, holding a tray of food in his hands. He walked in, not waiting for Manvi's response. He didn't need to wait, she herself had told him he was always welcome. He walks in and stops short, his eyes falling on her sleeping figure. She looked beautiful. They say that hair is a women's greatest asset, but he no longer believed that. It had been a little over a week since that little incident. He had meant what he had said that day, about how he was looking at the most beautiful girl in the world. He genuinely believed it. Now, as he watched her sleep, his faith strengthened. Her hair, he realises, had been hiding her beautiful features. Her bangs would somehow cover her face sometimes, but now everything was clearly visible and he was loving it.
He walked closer towards her and set the breakfast tray on the side table. "Manvi?" he whispers, gently touching her shoulder. She stirs, her eyes fluttering. She opens them with some difficulty, as though her eyelids weigh a ton. A knot tightens in his stomach. Her eyes were sunken, as were her cheeks. Her once pink cheeks were pale, and her red lips now a pale pink and chapped. His strong, fighting partner..so weak...Quickly, he shakes off the thought. She had just had her 4th chemo the previous day, such weakness was expected, but it didn't make it any easier to endure.
"Good morning, Partner!" he says, trying to sound as happy as possible. She smiles weakly at him as her eyes adjust. Slowly, her head turns to look around and behind. She was looking for her di, obviously.
"Di?" she asks hoarsely. Virat clenches his fist. He was missing his jumpy, loud and vivacious partner. He turns away and answers, his hand reaching for the breakfast tray, pretending to adjust the plates. "Woh bhabhi ko buaji ne kuch kaam ke liye bulaaya hai. Kaam khatm hote hi aa jaayegi." He manages to force a smile as he turns back to her.
"Breakfast?" he asks. She smiles and gives a small nod, almost unnoticeable. Bending her arms, she tries to push herself off the bed into sitting position. But her hands are too weak. A look of despair crosses her face. The knot in his stomach tightens. "Manvi..." he whispers. Without saying anything else, he bends forward and reaches under her. Wrapping his arms around her chest, he gently lifts her, careful not to pull or squeeze too hard. Manvi pushes herself against the head-board with his support. Virat untangles himself from her. Not meeting her eyes, he proceeds to pull up her blanket and keep the breakfast tray on her legs. He didn't know what to say that would make her feel better, and he didn't want her to see the pain in his eyes. She would catch it, he knew she would. Manvi doesn't say anything either. She was happy that she was helping him. That wasn't the problem. It just hurt her that she had to be like this in front of him. How much was her pain and struggle hurting him? Only his eyes would tell...and he kept turning away.
Slowly, she reaches for the piece of bread on her plate and brings it to her mouth. Slowly, she chews. Virat settles himself at the foot of her bed. Far enough to give her space, close enough to be there to help. Perfect. Then, suddenly, a memory hits them both, at the same time.
It was the first time Jeevika had brought this bland breakfast to Manvi. She had called Virat to come and eat it for her. Groggily, he had come to her rescue to eat up the disgusting meal. He had eaten everything so Manvi wouldn't have to. He had wanted to help her so she would have to suffer. Today it was no different. The breakfast tray was the same, the contents were the same, the bed was the same and Virat's desire to help was the same. But Manvi and Virat? They were different. Today, Manvi knew how important that meal was for her and Virat knew the only way to help her was to make sure she ate the meal.
Both of them look at each other, the memory flashing through their minds. Virat feels tears welling up in his eyes. That Manvi and this Manvi, they were the same, yet so, so different. Loud, stubborn, demanding, hyperactive, to quite, submissive and barely able to move. He watches her chew slowly, and feels the knot in his stomach squeeze tighter and tighter. He remembers how Manvi used to eat, stuffing her mouth and swallowing at light speed so she could finish eating and do something else. Now, Manvi was careful about every bite. Even the smallest mistake would give her a coughing fit that could cost her her life.
Manvi looks away. She had seen the pain, and one glimpse was enough to shatter her heart. How was he handling it? She continues to eat and Virat watches her. Finishing her bread, she begins on the tasteless oats. A look of disgust crosses her face. Inside, Virat feels like reaching out, grabbing the food and eating it so she didn't have to. He closes his eyes, his heart heavy.
When Manvi finishes her meal, Virat goes to take her tray. Manvi rests her head on the head board and closes her eyes, her hands motionless by her side. Eating itself had become a great task. Despair filled her heart. She hated feeling like this. Virat keeps the tray on the table and kneels down beside her. Gently, he holds her right hand. Manvi's heartbeat shoots up, but she doesn't move. Virat looks up at her, waiting for a reaction. Nothing.
He holds her hand in his. It was the same hand he had held countless times, but it felt very different now. Bonier, more fragile. For a moment, he was afraid it would disintegrate right there if he held it too hard. He looks at her hand. Her once smooth, soft hands were filled with tiny holes made from needles and pipes that were pierced into her every chemo session. They were more prominent now, considering she had had a session the previous day. He swallows, a lump forming in his throat. Taking a deep breath, he slowly massages her hand, wanting to relieve her of her pain. His thumbs move in a circular motion, the other four fingers just pressing lightly onto her palm.
After he finishes massaging her hands, he moves to her forearms. Manvi's heartbeats are erratic now, her heart threatening to burst out of her chest. But she doesn't say anything, she doesn't even move. She loved the way his hands felt in hers. Loved the warmth they would bring. She didn't want to do anything that would risk him stopping. When he finishes massaging her right hand, he moves to her left.
When he is done, he looks up at her. Still no response. Fear trickles into his heart. What if...? Gently, he holds her hand and gives it 2 light, successive squeezes. Manvi squeezes back. He breathes a sigh of relief. That was their signal. Anytime Virat got worried about her, he would squeeze her hand, and she would respond with a squeeze of her own, to tell him she was okay. He continues to watch her, but she doesn't do anything else. He lets go of her hand and turns to her bedside table. Manvi opens her eyes and turns to him. Her heartbeat was slowly returning to normal now. Till today she couldn't understand why his every touch did that to her. Being in love was fantastic, but this crazy response was beginning to get a little annoying, especially because sometimes it felt like the whole world could hear her heart thumping away in her chest. Yet...yet it was kind of pleasant. Kind of...enjoyable.
She watches Virat as he opens the drawer to take out her medicines. Inside, there are dozens of little tablets in them, all different colours. There were so many, sometimes even she forgot which was which. But Virat didn't even hesitate as he swiftly took out the tablets from the drawer. He had memorised her medicine schedule to such an extent that he didn't even need to think about what he needed to take out. She smiled at him. He had taken so much effort to do all this...and ignored his career in the process. He thought she didn't know, but she did. He had skipped another recording for her. She wanted to be angry, but how could one be angry at someone for loving you? How could she be angry at someone who took care of her so well, who even went to the extent of...losing all his hair and even his career for her? That would be selfish. Tears form in her eyes. Quickly, she wipes them off, not wanting Virat to see them. He would get worried.
Virat finishes taking out the tablets and hands them to her. He gives her water and watches her slowly pick up the tablets and swallow them one by one. There was a time when she would dump everything in at once and wash them down with water...and now...Virat looks down. Stop it Virat! He scolds himself.
Manvi drinks up the last drops of water and hands back the glass to him. He takes it and places it on the table. Then, he rises and sits beside her on the bed. Manvi looks up at him. He smiles, cupping her face in his hand. Both just gaze into one another's eyes, neither feeling the need to say anything. The silence was comfortable.
Then, Virat remembers the doctors instructions. After every meal, it was very important for Manvi to burp, like it was for a child. It was to ensure that the food had been accepted by her body. Virat leans forward and embraces Manvi. She doesn't resist, instead, she closes her eyes, relishing the moment. She felt so good in his arms...she wanted to be there forever...or at least, until her last breath.
Virat begins to rub her back. "Relax.." he mumbles into her hair. Manvi feels a burst of gas running up her throat. "Ugh..." a burp escapes before she can stop it. Virat lets go and moves back. Damn Manvi! Itni jaldi kya thi? She curses inside.
Virat smiles at her. "Ab tum aaram karo, main aata hoon, okay?" he gets up to leave.
"Virat?" Manvi calls, holding his hand. Virat stops. Her voice was stronger now, much better than the hoarse whisper in the morning. He turns and sits back down.
"Virat, aur kitna aaram karoon? Bore ho gayi..." Manvi complains, pouting. Virat smiles. The Manvi he missed was back!
"Accha? To farmaaish keejiye. Kya karna hai?" Virat asks, his hands under his chin and eye brows raised. A playful smile forms on her face. Virat feels his heart leap with joy. Yes, yes! Anything partner, anything for your smile.
"Dance." Virat feels his smile disappear. "Dance?" he repeats.
She nods. Her nod is stronger now. "Kya? Pagal ho gayi ho?" Virat asks. What was wrong with her? She could barely even stand, and she wanted to dance?
"Virat! Please, suno na. One last dance." Virat's heart almost stops. Last dance? Why didn't she understand she couldn't go about saying such things anymore? It wasn't funny! He turns to glare at her, but Manvi's eyes show her complete ignorance to the assertion she had just made. He sighs. He was going to have to give in, as always.
"Manvi tum... Okay. Fine. Theek hai. I'll go get the CD player." He gets up. Manvi grabs his hand again.
"Nahi. Tum gaao." She says. Virat looks at her. She wanted him to sing? He looks into her pleading eyes. He smiles and nods. Anything for you...
"Okay. Kya gaaon?" he asks.
"Wohi jo tumne uss din recording mein gaaya tha." She replies, her eyes lighting up. Virat feels happiness spreading through his heart as he watches that. He loved to see that spark in her eyes. He nods. "Okay."
Slowly, he reaches under her and pulls her up. She swings her legs off the bed. He places his feet under hers so she can step onto them. She slides off the bed and Virat lifts her into his arms. Manvi stands on his feet, her hands wound tightly around his neck. Virat holds her around the waist, pulling her close to his body. He wanted her to use as little energy as possible. They were so close, they noses almost touched. Both feel each other's heart beat speeding up. Manvi looks into Virat's eyes. "Sing..." she whispers. He closes his eyes and begins...
Oooh ho... Tum ho mere liye
Tum ho paas mere
Saath mere ho
Jitna mehsoos karoon
Utna hi paa bhi loon
Mere liye ho tum yun
Khud ko main haar gaya
Tum ko, tukmko main jeeta hoon
Tum ho mere liye
They sway to the music, moving left and right, forward and back slowly. He didn't want this to be too tiring for her. Virat holds her close, feeling like every word described exactly, exactly what he was feeling. He had lost himself to her, and she was his best prize.
Manvi rests her head on his chest, feeling the music. The words applied to her too. His voice filled her, giving her peace, happiness, pleasure and every other wonderful feeling in the world. Perfect, that's the only word that could begin to describe what she was feeling. It felt right to be here, in his arms. To dance in his arms as he held her close.
Oooh ho... Kahin se kahin ko bhi Bandishe naa rahi koi baaqi Kis tarah chheenega aa mujh se ye jahaan tumhe
Aaah haa aa...
Aao bewajah chale
Poochhe bina kisi se
Tum ho paas mere, saath mere ho
Jitna mehsoos karooon tumko, utna hi paa bhi loon
Ooooh hoo hoo...
Tum bhi ho main
Kya fiqar ab humein
Kahin se kahin ko bhi
Bandishe naa rahi koi baaqi
Kis tarah chheenega aa mujh se ye jahaan tumhe
Virat feels tears welling up in his eyes. If only...if only...if only it was true. If only there was a way he could stop death, he would. He would...
Manvi leans in closer to him. She could feel energy leaving her. Her reserves were almost up, but she didn't want him to stop. She didn't want this to end, ever. She takes a deep breath, feeling his essence filling her. He smelt so good, his cologne, the detergent on his clothes, the virat-ness itself. It was the most perfect combination of fragrances, unique to her one and her only, Virat. Her partner. How come she had never noticed before? Feeling him, taking him in, holding him so close, not because she was sick, but because she wanted to, it felt different. All those times he had held her like this, it was either because she was coughing or had trouble breathing or was just plain unconscious. Today, she was fully conscious and aware of his body close to hers. And she wished for it to never end. But it would. She tightened her grip on Virat, willing her body to hold on. At least until he had finished. Tum ho mere liye Tum ho
Mere liye ho tum yun
Khud ko main haar gaya
Tum ko, Tumko main jeeta hoon
Ooooh hoo ho...
Tum ho mere liye
As he finishes, he opens his eyes. Resting his chin on Manvi's head, they continue to sway around the room, Virat continuing to hum the tune. Manvi smiles, she had done it. She had held on, and longer than expected too.
Suddenly, he feels Manvi sag. Her knees buckle, her grip on his neck loosening. Fear grips his heart and he freezes. Oh no. What had he done?
"Manvi?" Virat says, panic rising in his voice. Reaching under her legs, he lifts her off the ground and carries her to her bed in three long strides. Placing her on the bed, he calls her name again. "Manvi? Manvi?!" She doesn't even stir. Her eyes remain closed. Virat leans in to listen to her heart, it was still beating, but it was slow, faint. A small part of him is relieved, but why wasn't she waking up? He reaches for the glass of water and dips his hand in. Flicking drops of water onto her face, he calls out to her again.
"Manvi? Manvi, please.." he says desperately, tears flowing freely now. He didn't need to hide it, he didn't have the strength to. He slides his hand into hers and brings it to his lips. He kisses it, squeezing his eyes. More tears flow, wetting her hands.
Suddenly, he feels a light squeeze. It is faint, but it is there. Relief washes over him. He doesn't open his eyes, but relishes in the relief. Slowly, Manvi's hands move away from his grip and gently wipe away his tears.
In an almost inaudible whisper, Manvi says playfully, "dar gaye, partner?"